Written by our therapist Kalina Black.
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.. Or Is It?
The idea of sitting around the dinner table for a specially prepared meal during the holidays can feel appetizing to some but quite unappealing and highly stressful to others. For some, unpleasant memories of criticism, harsh physical & emotional discipline, and silenced norms about culture, gender, and race may abound and manifest itself as surface conversations around the dinner table. Thoughts of negative interactions with family or others may stir feelings of “I’d rather not…”, and understandably so. However, though those feelings may exist, the deep desire to achieve a sense of holiday normalcy causes some to engage in uncomfortable interactions with others.
Managing Holiday Expectations
The media portrays the idea of what a well spent holiday “should look like”. Pre COVID, our media outlets provided the perfect space to brag to the world about our projected comforts. On one hand, social media provides the opportunity to show and receive appreciation from close friends and family, but on the other hand, social media promotes opportunities for comparison, competition and outright social bullying to our distant connections. “Idolize me”, we say, without saying it, out of our desires to be admired by others.
Holiday Stress And COVID
Now- in the realm of COVID, bragging continues but from a different lens. Socially removed, friends & family portray smiles of “I’ve moved on without you” as they stand in front of holiday trimmings. They attempt to show some sense of normalcy in light of the present reality; that they are happy and are enjoying the holidays. Pressures regarding a “well-spent holiday” are not only given off from family and friends. They are further magnified in media by Hollywood stars & athletes who promote images of the excess resources they collect, which make contentment even more difficult for some, as they compare themselves to an unreachable standard. These pressures contribute to increased feelings of holiday stress.
Recommendations for coping with holiday stresses:
In this difficult time of adjustment for many, how then do we properly process feelings of separation, isolation and discontent with what it is? How do we also manage our desires for true & genuine connections, and not focus on comparing ourselves and our lives to others?
Here are some recommendations to minimize holiday stresses and help us get through the holidays in a healthy & affirming way:
1. Limit social media intake — avoid scrolling first thing in the morning and right before bedtime (what we take in at the start of our day sets the tone for the rest of the day; likewise what we allow our minds to take in before bed, can set the tone for the night: good sleep or inability to sleep well)
2. Pay attention to your body’s responses— If sitting near a distant relative or former friend at a holiday get together sends your body or mind into emotional distress— give yourself space— whether that means choosing:
- a seat distanced away (you don’t have to sit next to someone that stresses you out:)
- choosing when or who to visit with (i.e. will you visit before or after the holiday. Will you visit in small gatherings vs. large gatherings)
- how you visit (will you visit in person or online/phone)— you have the right to choose.
3. Pack a self-care supply kit in advance— prepare your best music & movie collections, new/revisited journals, aromatherapy products, favorite meals, warm drinks and creative art tools for that pre/post recovery period around, during and after the holidays.
4.Be kind to yourself—aim to accept your reality as it is; focus on what is in your control to change. Practice Self-Love, Kindness & Compassion. We all need it. And there’s no time like the present.
A healthy perspective to holiday stress relief
Many of us are often encouraged to silence our true emotions and portray an expression of contentment, especially during the holidays. The more we distance ourselves from our true feelings, the more unsettled, removed and numb we are at risk of becoming, and increase holiday stresses felt.
Though 2020 has been difficult- let’s make this last month of the year one of our better months. Let’s allow ourselves to be a little kinder, more thoughtful, less comparative, and less boastful. Let’s also have a fuller spirit of humility & generosity and treat ourselves with self love & compassion. We’re all in this together. We’ve all been through this year together. Let’s travel through it, stronger and wiser.
Let us treasure each moment with gratitude for the life we have this holiday season- even if it may be filled with challenges. Let us also send out our appreciation in memory of those loved ones near and far who have passed on from this pandemic. Lastly, let us welcome a collective approach to a new year full of wellness & genuine relationships with family & friends. Relationships packed with trust, kindness & support and overall global healing. One day at a time…
God bless you & Happy Holidays to All
Ms. Kalina Black, LMSW
We welcome your thoughts, so please share below. For more tips on managing holiday stressors follow us at https://www.facebook.com/vibrantwwc/ and https://www.instagram.com/vibrantwomenwellness/
2020 has been a difficult year for everybody. Losing family members, friends, losing jobs, shelter, food, etc. it is definitely sad, stressful and hopeless. I am just praying to God to bless us with a new year full of opportunities to start, to bless us with healthy year, full of love and peace. I try to be positive (even thought it is not easy) but I am blessed to be healthy and to help others in need. Since I was a little girl Christmas is my favorite holiday season. This year it is going to be so different without my family close by (they moved to another state) and even though my mother still in NY, but I can’t be with her because she is in a nursing home. At least I can talk/see her via FaceTime. I am blessed to have my husband with me who I can share my favorite holiday season with.
God Bless Everybody! Be healthy and safe!
Focusing on gratitude is a great way to manage stresses and sorrows especially during the holiday times. Glad you are focusing on what you “can” do to connect wit loved ones. Happy holidays.
This holiday season will actually not be so different. We live far from family, so we usually spend it with the kids. I’m not in the ‘holiday’ season for decorating and such because we miss a lot of the fun things we usually do because of all the changes (i.e. outdoor shopping, holiday events etc.,) This usually gets me in the mood to decorate and such. Anyhow the holidays are generally stressful because of all the superficialness that surrounds it, PLUS not seeing loved ones. I generally find myself feeling sad when all the festivities are done. The year has been filled with madness to say the least, but we’re still here and healthy for the most part, so grateful for this. However way you spend the holidays, hoping there is joy and new beginnings for the new year ?
Yes this year is definitely different. You’ll have an interesting story to share with your children when they grow up about holidays in 2020. Hope you have a great holiday season focused on what ” is present” for you and your family- however different.
I think of this year as it comes to a close and this is the time of the year when I assess what my life has been like for the past year. Did I live intentionally this year? Was I able to attain any part of the goals I had set out to accomplish in all the aspects of my living and in what matters most to me and those I love? I used to spend the holidays obsessing about the magic I had as a child and trying to recreate it with my own children and in that effort, missed out on the true magic that made the holidays soecial—the time to be in the moment of love and family and time together. So, a few years back, we started some traditions– like just sitting in the wee hours of the mornings leading up to Christmas, with whomever of our children who will rise to the occasion—literally, in the glow of the lit Christmas tree, and all the decorations we hung together, and just be. Be in the moment, be together….and in those moments, I hold them, we snuggle and I think of the limited time we have with our children and loved ones..and how precious these moments of just being are. This year, we are focusing on the moments we get to spend with each other, the love we get to give and share and receive — focusing only on what we can control and change and letting everything else go. For me living that truth each day, not just during the holidays, has helped me destress and enjoy this time so much more!!
Thanks for sharing what helps you to manage during the holiday season and outside of it. You have a great perspective regarding being in the moment- something we can all take from and appreciate. Hope your reflections about the current year provide great insight for the upcoming one. Happy holidays!
Happy holidays! For me, I think I will stay away from social media and just enjoy my children. There is nothing quite like experiencing the holidays through them and their innocence and joy. God bless everyone..praying for a healthy and happy new year for all!
Young children have the best attitudes about holidays- their excitement and amazement of the small things make the holidays enjoyable. We can all learn from their innocence and gratitude to help us in life. Hope your family has a great holiday season.